KEY POINTS

  • Journalist Lucian K. Truscott IV said his great-grandfather’s memorial must be removed
  • Truscott said the ancestral property in Montecillo is the real Jefferson monument
  • Montecillo shows the “moral failings in full, an imperfect man, a flawed founder”
  • Truscott wants Jefferson’s memorial replaced with Harriet Tubman's monument

A direct descendant of Thomas Jefferson has called for the removal of the founding father's iconic memorial in Washington, D.C., saying that the family plantation in Virginia was the perfect memorial for the third president who owned more than 600 slaves and fathered children with one of them.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a journalist, wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times Monday that the 19-foot-tall bronze statue surrounded by marble columns should be replaced with a memorial to Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave an abolitionist, who "helped to bring into being a more perfect union after slavery."

"Described by the National Park Service as 'a shrine to freedom,' it is anything but," Truscott wrote. "It’s a shrine to a man who famously wrote that “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence that founded this nation — and yet never did much to make those words come true."

1920px-Jefferson_Memorial_At_Dusk_1 The Jefferson Memorial seen across the Tidal Basin at dusk in Washington, D.C. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Truscott, whose great-grandmother was a great-granddaughter of Jefferson, said his famous ancestor sold his slaves to pay off his debts, instead of setting them free."I am the sixth-generation great-grandson of a slave owner," Truscott said, adding that Jefferson doesn't need a memorial because their ancestral property in Monticello is the "perfect memorial".

If Americans were to visit the Monticello site that was built by slaves, Truscott wrote, they would see the real story of Jefferson's past, which isn't found in history books. The plantation shows Jefferson's "moral failings in full, an imperfect man, a flawed founder."

The writer also acknowledged a shift in society's consciousness by saying that honoring the slave-owning founders of America is now in the past. Instead, the country should celebrate the "founding mothers," like Tubman. Jefferson's descendant wants to see "a 19-foot-tall bronze statue of the slave and patriot” because it is the "real history of America."

Truscott is not the only direct descendant of Jefferson to acknowledge the family legacy.

Shannon LaNier, another direct descendant, told the Smithsonian Magazine in July 2019 thathis great-grandfather, a brilliant man who spoke about equality, did not practice what he preached. LaNier descended from Sally Hemings, Jefferson's enslaved mixed-race, long-term sexual partner.

Truscott's piece comes as protesters asked the New York City Council in June to remove the statue of Jefferson at City Hall. In Portland, protesters knocked down Jefferson's statue at the front steps of the Jefferson High School.